Attitude reflects leadership

| 15/05/2010

On the heels of World Press Freedom Day (May 3) comes one of the most vehement and shocking attacks by the Premier of the Cayman Islands on that very fundamental pillar of a true democracy: freedom of the press.

Showing what can only be described as tremendous distaste for the Freedom of Information Act and the anonymity which it affords private citizens who choose not to be identified by allowing them to use a pseudonym to place FOI requests ("Mickey Mouse" incurred the brunt of said wrath though one cannot imagine what poor Mickey has ever done to the Premier), the leader of our small nation then set his sites on "blogs" and internet news providers, such as CNS, reminding them that the press is anything but free and that the hefty price tag will soon be quantified in bank notes. “I’m not talking about a $5,000 fee,” the Premier is quoted as saying. “I’m talking over $100,000”.

Throughout the press conference the Premier made continuous reference to blog postings, how those who would post such things "do not love" our nation, and how much damage these posts were doing for our image abroad. At one point he claimed he had to vouch for the Island’s safety to persons “in Kansas City, Connecticut and New York” who were concerned over reports that MLAs were attacking tourists and reassure them that it was still safe to travel here.

Clearly there is no shortage of mind-boggling contradictions in the aforementioned statements, but for the sake of time and sanity let us focus on two.

Firstly let us redirect the misplaced blame for the detriment to our country’s image from the bloggers and journalists who report the questionable conduct of our leadership to where it truly belongs: the leaders who are conducting themselves in a questionable manner. Neither the bloggers nor the journalists can be held responsible for the decisions made by the Bodden Town MLA which landed him in the predicament that was then reported throughout Cayman and to the world.

Yet, let us suppose that the bloggers and the journalists had been "better citizens" and kept that bit of information to themselves. Our leadership needs no assistance from us "common folk" in making questionable choices: using the "n" word on the radio, publicly bullying a person and outing the individual as being on government assistance, and pulling what has become known as a "Cayman Kanye" in our pop culture are all examples etched in our minds, and cemented through the power of technology and live internet streaming, of unacceptable behaviour by public officials. No blame can be projected to the people on this one, and as the damaging statements came "straight from the horses’ mouths" the degree of detrimental effect multiplies exponentially.

Secondly, let uspoint out that the mere fact that a significant number of persons who comment on blogs or make FOI requests do so only under the veil of anonymity is an indication of the fear of repercussion and lack of freedom of speech which makes up the suffocating culture of silence under which we live andare working on changing. Anonymity in both instances allows for comments and requests to be judged on their substance and merits rather than whom the author or requesting party is. Our aim, as a nation, should be to strive towards a culture that embraces “owning one’s statements” and signing one’s name at the dotted line. What cannot be ignored, however, is that in order to get there people cannot be afraid that the power of the public office which an individual holds will be used against them should they say something with which said public official disagrees. Which leads us back to the aforementioned point about the behaviour: attitude reflects leadership, plain and simple.

Commenting anonymously on a blog about the state of the country is not merely a tool for venting frustrations or being daring. Nor does FOI simply allow journalists the opportunity to put their investigative skills to use by being able to actively look for stories instead of printing the endless number of press releases which pour in daily. Both are democracy in action — the right to have opinions, to access information, to have a say on the affair of the state and to question those elected to serve are at the root of governing by the will of the people.

The key word here is serve: not rule, not impose, not dictate. Kill the freedom of the press and the death of democracy will soon follow.

While we are on the topic allow this last clarification: making an argument to defend one’s claim to be "for" accountability and transparency because "sometimes I say too much and get myself in trouble” is erroneous. Accountability is not the making of statements that range from unacceptable, to unconscionable, to wildly inappropriate; it is taking responsibility for the repercussions after the fact.

 

Carolina Ferreira is a host on the morning talk show "Talk Live" on CAYROCK 96-5.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Category: Viewpoint

Comments (23)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Lachlan MacTavish says:

     Carolina…..excellent viewpoint…..well written. Retribution from elected members on anyone who dares to critize has been prevalent for decades. Some have refined the practice beyond imagination. A perfect example would be The Premier threatening to single handedly raise trade and business licenses to ridiculous sums in an attempt to "control".

  2. Person says:

    Hats off to Carolina. This was thought out, even and brilliantly said.

    • Anonymous says:

      and we have another erudite blogger on line who is willing to criticize.  Hooray CArolina!!

      • Anonymous says:

        i would imagine that to some pointing out the actual TRUTH would appear to be criticism. 

  3. Anonymous says:

    I was listening to Duguay on Friday’s show, talking about how while some saw him as courageous he did not see himself as such because he was "at the end of his carreer".  Here we have a young person, clearly in the beginning of her’s, trying to do her part.  I applaud your effort, Carolina, and I hope for all our sakes more will come forward like you have.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Thank you CNS, you have made me proud to be a blogger. Your commentary is excellent. Keep on doing the investigative reporting, we love it.

    The Premier is an embarrassement to our country, he rants and raves, what a poor example of a leader. Imagine if that is how he conducts himself, how does he treat those closest to him. Then he has audocity to call himself a Christian, now that is the kind thatyou don’t want to go heaven with.

    He states that the bloggers are giving the country a bad reputation, interesting statement, I wonder if he really thought about that comment. Mr Premier it is the mickey mouse Government that you are running that nobody has a say into it, it is the way you conduct yourself, it is what you say that really make the Cayman Islands receive bad media coverage.

    My question to the  Ministers in your party, The Honorable  Mark Scotland, Julianna O’Connor, Rolston Anglin, Mike Adams why are you in this, what is your stance is this kind of behavior, ths is also a reflection your leadership as well. Are you  going to continue to allow YOUR LEADER to conduct himself in this manner? What are your views, Hon. Julianna you are the christian here! you are the only lady in the group, speak up!! there is a deafening silence, coming from party. Are you all scared?????????????

    CNS: Thanks but we cannot claim credit for this commentary, I’m afraid. Carolina is a host of the morning talk show "Talk Live" on CAYROCK 96-5. I should have put that at the bottom and will do so now.

     

     

     

     

  5. jenny vanbergen says:

    I agree that CNS – all media outlets – cannot help but practice a form ofcensorship simply by dint of what they choose to write about. 

    Of course the story about the lone mad gunman on the streets of George Town is infinitely more interesting than how 20,000 other law-abiding citizens read a story to their lovely children and chose to get an early night. 

    But constantly reading about all the bad bits, or reading the same old blog-hogs’ negative comments, can seep into the brain and may give a false impression of the big picture.

    Further argument over lunch.

     

     

     

     

     

  6. Mr. Praline says:

    The point about the need for anonymity is spot on – anyone who challenges the status quo will be got at one way or another.  Human rights challenges?  Forget it, you will be off the island beforeyou can ever get anywhere. 

  7. Interesting says:

    Not that I am about to defend the Premier…God forbid.

    But there is something to be said about the dangers about irresponsible and reckless comments from anyone such as

    1.Crying/inferring corruption- when there is none

    2.Calling people political agents when they aren’t

    3.Making sensationlized statements

    And the list goes on…

    Even though it’s still wrong, there’s a major difference saying such things during a conversation amongst friends over a glass of wine and actually posting it big and broad for the world to see.

    It’s unfortunate that when people get on their free speech soapbox they rarely mention responsible speech.  It seems as if it’s fine (under some people’s version of freedom) to hide behind anonymity and throw rude, erroneous and spiteful comments.

    And you have cheerleading squads of fellow anonymous bloggers who because they don’t like the target of the insults approve of the statements- in the name of free speech. 

    So basically if it doesn’t add up to libel/or slander in court then its o.k.?  If that’s to be the new definition and intention of free speech then we really are a bunch of degenerates.

    Stating an opinion or view opposing someonelse is one thing.  Deliberately misleading and trying to smear people and smear this country is another and too much of that happens on these blogs and is dressed up and paraded as democracy working it’s best. 

     

    • Anonymous... because I have to be says:

      Who is misleading?  And who are the misled?  Interesting point isn’t it?

    • Anonymous says:

      Are you on the right site? I haven’t noticed;

      1.Crying/inferring corruption- when there is none

      2.Calling people political agents when they aren’t

      3.Making sensationlized statements

      .. to the point of irresponsibility.

      There are some that are a little overzealous, but that is their right to freedom of speech.

      There are those that prefer to live in the same state as Cuba and there are many more that do not.

    • Anonymous says:

      Don’t expect to win any brownie points with the blog-hogs.   

    • J. Smith says:

       

       

       

      Blogging is a form of self-publication, and according to some estimates, as many as one in seven people blog. 
       
      Reading the blogs posted here gives me an opportunity to consider what Mary Pipher refers to in her book, Writing toChange the World (Riverhead Books, 2006), as the "I-it" relationship.
       
      In the "I-it" relationship, we objectify, depersonalize and dehumanize other people to differentiate them from us. "Once a person is labeled as ‘not like us,’ the rules for civilized behavior no longer apply" (Pipher 4). The opposite of an "I-it" relationship is an "I-thou" relationship.
       
      Blogging relies on, and encourages, the "I-it" relationship. Blogging requires the writer to adopt a fixed and narrow point of view on a particular subject. Unlike traditional writing which seeks to inform, persuade and/or entertain, a blog need not do any of these things. It can simply be a doctrinal or random statement of opinion. A blogger writes for an interested audience. On CNS, the popular reader demographic clearly opposes the government, so one can safely assume that the majority of people commenting here do so because they know that other readers will agree with them. That is comforting in some respect, and it doesn’t require a lot of courage.
       
      CNS offers its readers considerable freedom to say whatever is on their minds and hearts, with very few posting restrictions. (Comments on the site are moderated and individuals can flag comments that are "abusive.") This is good, yet many comments do nothing more than express intolerance, indignation and a lack of empathy. Some comments are personal attacks on individuals, instead of objective opinions about an article or story. Comments rarely engage or encourage further and deeper discussion on a reported subject. Some bloggers band together like gangs of cyber-bullies and pick on other bloggers who disagree with their point of view. The end result is not a healthy debate about current news topics, but a forum for over-opinionated, sometimes fanatical people to spread hatred.
       
      Some modest observations: It is easy to diss a stranger in cyberspace. It’s easy to demean someone whose face we haven’t seen. It’s easy to disown our words when we hide behind a moniker. It’s easy to insult someone if we don’t know any better or couldn’t care any less.
       
      But is this how we are to define "free speech?" No one here mightagree with what I have to say, but if you take the time to read what I have written then I will write to the best of my ability to make my point in a positive way.  One can be passionate about a topic without being personal. Speech might be free, but words have a cost. Use them wisely.

       

      • Roadblogger says:

        When we take things personally it is because we deem ourselves to be personally affected by a decision.  All decisions of government fall into that category.  Therefore, there is a need, desire and some might say a necessity to comment, some may even see it as a right.  What would you have us do, simply read about decisions which are going to affect us now or later?  Obviously people here feel it is a citizen’s right to comment.  Agreed, some may fall outside the rules of fair commentary and turn into vindictiveness such as the recent comments by our Premier. 

        I for one want to hear what others have to say especially my fellow citizens in the place where I live.  I disregard the vindictive ones, the rude ones, and the lunatics and I don’t have to believe everything I read.  And neither do you.  That’s your right also.

         

  8. anonymous says:

    We must protect freedom of expression. We must also all recognize that beacuse of our affluent society, high technology, small size and our position on the world stage ,makes us an easy target and the slightest mistakes we make or problems that we have, become big news.  Bad news always travels faster and wider.

    Under the 2 party system, at any point in time, there is a group of people apparantly anxious to see the other side fail and seemingly willing to help facilitate it.  This cant be good in the national interest.

    Life in the Cayman Islands is now like living in a fish bowl under bright domestic and international lights. Our residents and politicians need to understand this, as any mistake or mistep will cost us dearly.

    Welcome to the modern world, like it or not.

  9. Anonymous says:

     Home run! Right on the mark

  10. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for your very well written Viewpoint. The most recent disgraceful rant was an embarrassment for all of us who previously supported him. What provides further embarrassment is the fact that other politicians have refused to distance themselves from such idiocy.

    The cronies and backroom men who feed off of corruption will have no difficulty with attacks on freedom of the press and democracy in general and would no doubt support the devil himself if there was profit in it. What remains to be seen is just how long the rest of the party infrastructure will support any buffoon who attacks the right of the Caymanian people to speak out on issues that concern them.  The actions of the party at this point will speak volumes regarding their real loyalties and whether they could ever be trusted again with the governance of our beloved Cayman.

     

  11. Shamrock says:

    Excellent article, Carolina! I wholeheartedly agree with all your points.

    If this is the way the Premier behaves in a public settiing, one can only imagine how hetreats his subordinates in private if any of them dares to disagree with him.

    As far as I’m concerned, as long as McKeeva Bush remains the leader of his party, no one from the UDP can say anything to me about supporting their policies and initiatives. A party is only as good as its leadership, and McKeeva Bush (and other senior members of the party) has demonstrated that he is not good for his party and, most importantly, the Cayman Islands.

    I, therefore, have washed my hands of all things UDP and all things McKeeva Bush.

  12. Thank you, Carolina

    I like what Tommy Smothers said:

    "The only valid censorship of ideas is the right of people not to listen."

    That is all the Premier had to do – not listen. If he knew he was doing the right thing and the truth always prevails, he would have patiently continue with what he was doing without reacting to his critics. It is that simple.

    CNS you all censor speech as well. Let us be true to ourselves. I remember the words of Lenny Bruce

    "Take away the right to say ‘f…ck,’ and you take away the right to say ‘f…ck the government.’"

    Because the government can always fall in the wrong or become an evil entity. History has shown governments burning people at the stake for what they believed in; especially those governments that used religion, Islam, or christianity as a cover up.

    And you hear people say that certain blogs and opinions are negative and preventing or slowing the growth of our economy, or is causing a bad image to be made of the Cayman Islands. Well my reply to such an assumption is, without erroneous comments and opinions expressed, you tell me, how would we have the freedom to CORRECT???  If speech becomes censored how will we, Premier, be able to censor falsehood?

    Folks do not be intimidated by no one! Speak you mind!  Voltaire says what many brave people have said to their opponents:

    "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

    CNS: We never censor comments because we disagree with them – the diverse range of ideas on the comment board is proof of that. However, the comments are moderated and we frequently deal with complaints that the moderating is either too strict or too liberal, depending on the viewpoint of the person complaining. Please read The CNS comment policy and Moderating the comments.

     

    • Certified says:

      "We never censor comments because we disagree with them" -CNS

      Oh really!

    • pauly cicero says:

      Doesn’t the ICTA or gov by law censor material that can be broadcast or published? It’s not up to CNS to decide whether we can say f*ck or not.

  13. Joe Average says:

    Wow!  

    Carolina, you’ve made too much sense the problem is we understand it but for some reason the people we have appointed to represent us don’t.

    Isn’t that often the case?

    When we make comments in most instances we’re trying to say hold on that isn’t what we want or for lack of that, if the decision has been made we’d like to hear the reasoning behind it.  The people we elect are not clairvoyant, and If government officials, including our Premier, are making decisions that affect so many of us… should they not seek a consensus or make an attempt to hear what it might be?  What better way to do that than with paying attention to what people are saying to each other?  How about right here on CNS?

    Here we are doing that yet the Premier seems too arrogant and fixed in his own rightness to take advantage of one other tool that can be used to govern.  Asking us first before making a decision.  The election only put him in office it did not mandate for him to make arbitrary ones.  And his track record, if it can be called that has seen so much backing up and changing his mind that it is obvious it would be useful for him to have some feedback.

    These decisions affect US and if they had been made clear at the beginning it’s quite possible he would not have been elected. Scary.

    But, now that he has, he could very easily turn things around by asking "what is it you would like me to do on your behalf?"  Instead, he sees all opposition to his often spur of the moment ideas as a threat.  Well, he’s right they are a threat. They are threat to how we want our democracy to work and how we want to solve our problems.  We can’t have a leader who prefers to bury his head under the pillow and sleep-in.  We face real problems in real time. And the only way they will be solved is if we all participate.

    The invitation is being offered to the Premier to participate.  And if he doesn’t want to he should get out of the way.  Because with or without him our democracy is going to work for us.

     

  14. Blogger says:

    This is an outstanding commentary it makes me proud to be a blogger. I really hope that Mac reads this as well as all of the comments written over the last 24 hours about his attack on freedom. The people are not happy.